More marvelous mammals - size isn't everything
Although large mammals are the attraction for visitors, it is the smaller mammals and specimen fragments that add scientific value to a collection. Unlike birds they have not been collected for aesthetic reasons, and they are not usually mounted in lifelike poses. Even so, a collection of local species gives us a useful ecological insight as small mammals play a part in our immediate environment and everyday lives.
Often the specimens are just skins, or skins that have been stuffed with a material such as wood wool to give a rounded shape. Other specimens are mounted on a card ‘finger’ to give the skins some support.
Not just your average moles ...
A variety of other animals are caught in traps that are designed to catch mammals (such as rats, mice, grey squirrels and moles) which are considered to be pests. Occasionally both the intentionally caught species, and the 'by-catch', are offered to the Museum. Moles were trapped in such huge numbers that no-one seemed to bother much about having representative specimens in the collection, but it appears that nearly all the albino, ginger or otherwise unusually coloured moles were retained. Most of the moles collected up to the last quarter of the 20th century were unusual colour variants. Casual collecting became a more important source of material after this period.
Unfortunately a large number of animals die on our roads. In recent years this has become the most common reason for small mammals to enter our collections.
There is a lot that can be learned from a collection of historic specimens and those killed recently on the roads, and data gleaned from donations can help scientists reach a better understanding of local species variation and the effects mankind is having on the environment.